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NFL

2013 NFL Free Agency: 20 Players That Deserve Raises

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Introduction

Intro
Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s free agency period is a time for teams to spruce up their roster, and more than a handful of players will wind up with much deeper pockets because of it. While some owners will ultimately overpay for the services of their new acquisitions, many of this year’s talented options will actually deserve the raise in pay they are about to, or at least should, be getting.

Some will look for long-term financial security with the team they’ve been playing for, while others seek out a fresh start in a brand new NFL city. Either way, this is the time where many of the league’s free agents, especially the youngsters just finishing up their rookie contracts, will be finding a place to call home for years to come.

You’d be amazed at how many players have been outplaying their peers for the past couple of years while doing so under a much more team-friendly contract.

Well, a guy has to get his eventually, and that’s exactly what play-makers like Mike Wallace and Victor Cruz have been waiting for. Careers in the NFL are typically short-lived in comparison to other sports, so a lot of guys only get one true shot to cash in big before they end up on the wrong side of 30. For that reason alone, it’s hard to blame a budding star for his willingness to relocate in search of a deal that meets his demands.

Follow along as we bring you 20 NFL free agents who deserve a pay raise in 2013.

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Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver

Mike Wallace
Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports

Wallace probably isn’t worth what he’s looking for, but the 26-year old speedster is certainly worth more than the $2.7 million he made as the Steelers No. 1 WR in 2012. He put up back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2010 and 2011 as well, all while making less than $1 million each season.

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Andy Levitre, Guard

Andy Levitre
Brett Davis - USA TODAY Sports

It’s safe to say the Bills got their money’s worth after seeing Levitre play out his four-year, $3.5 million rookie contract in full. The 26-year old is already one of the NFL’s top pass-blocking guards and he deserves to be paid like it.

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Glover Quin, Safety

Glover Quin
Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports

Quin has been a starter in Houston for almost four full seasons now, and a reliable one at that. He’s young, versatile, has a great work ethic and is about to cash in for the first time in his five-year career.

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Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver

Victor Cruz
Anthony Gruppuso - USA TODAY Sports

With 168 catches, 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons, the former undrafted free agent has done more than enough to warrant a boost in income. The Giants got all that production despite paying Cruz less than $1 million over the last two years combined.

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William Moore, Safety

William Moore
Josh D. Weiss - USA TODAY Sports

Moore has been doing a lot for a little over the past three seasons in Atlanta. The former second-round pick was at his best in 2012, racking up 75 tackles while hauling in four interceptions. He should be hauling in a respectable long-term deal this Spring.

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Phil Loadholt, Right Tackle

Phil Loadholt
Bruce Kluckhohn - USA TODAY Sports

Loadholt is a young and well-rounded tackle with future Pro Bowler written all over him. At 6-foot-8, 343 pounds, Loadholt is a tank on the gridiron and should be rewarded for punishing opponents over the past four seasons. He’s started every one of the 63 games he’s played in the NFL.

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Dennis Pitta, Tight End

Dennis Pitta
Roy Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

Pitta improved upon an impressive 2011 campaign with 61 catches for 669 yards and seven scores a season ago. Not to mention the three TD catches he hauled in during the Ravens Super Bowl run despite making a meager $540,000 base salary. Pay the Pitta!

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Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver

Danny Amendola
Scott Rovak - USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are a huge concern for Amendola, but you can’t say the guy doesn’t deserve more than $1.9 per year. He’s got all the heart in the world and is a production machine when he is on the field. His all-out attitude has played a role in the injuries, but you have to respect the effort and will to win.

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Sebastian Vollmer, Right Tackle

Sebastian Vollmer
Greg M. Cooper - USA TODAY Sports

A protector of Tom Brady making less than $1 million per season? Not for long. Vollmer was one of the top right tackles in football a year ago and his contract should better reflect that by the time this free agency period is over with.

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Michael Bennett, Defensive End

Michael Bennett
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

Bennett racked up nine sacks for the Buccaneers in 2012 and was equally effective in run defense. He’s arguably the top defensive end in this year’s free agent class and has proven himself worthy of an upgrade from the $2.7 million he earned last season.

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Dannell Ellerbe, Linebacker

Dannell Ellerbe
Chris Humphreys - USA TODAY Sports

Ellerbe played very well in 2012, especially in run defense. His coverage skills could use some work, but he’s going to be worth every penny of $25-$30 million he could realistically receive with a new long-term deal he’s likely to get. With Ray Lewis retiring, the Ravens need to make sure he doesn’t get away.

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Jared Cook, Tight End

Jared Cook
Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

The Titans haven’t been able to get the most out of Cook’s immense potential as a pass-catching tight end, but someone else just might. With over 1,200 yards and seven TDs during the past two seasons, someone is going to pay the guy more than the $615,000 he made in 2012 to see what all he’s capable of.

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Keenan Lewis, Cornerback

Keenan Lewis
Jason Bridge - USA TODAY Sports

Lewis was impressive as a starter for the Steelers in 2012 and he should be able to lock down something long term after playing the past season on a one-year deal for $1.2 million. Whether it’s with Pittsburgh or some other team, it's bound to happen.

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Delanie Walker, Tight End

Delanie Walker
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

Walker made $1.9 million a year ago and technically isn’t even a starter, but if you only knew the variety of plays and positions he’s required to learn for his role with the 49ers, you’d agree that he deserves a raise. Despite being a great run-blocker, his lack of size and pass-catching ability may keep him from getting one, though.

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Ramon Foster, Guard

Ramon Foster
Jason Bridge - USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have been getting the services of Foster on the cheap for too long, as he’s made 42 starts (mostly at right guard) at the guard position in Pittsburgh over the past three seasons. The former undrafted free agent should be able to cash in on a decent deal this Spring.

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Brad Jones, Linebacker

Brad Jones
Jeff Hanisch - USA TODAY Sports

Jones filled in as a starting inside linebacker throughout much of 2012 and did so admirably despite being accustomed to playing on the outside. Green Bay could use him back, but it’ll mean paying him more than the $615,000 he earned a year ago.

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Paul Kruger, Linebacker

Paul Kruger
Jason Bridge - USA TODAY Sports

Kruger racked up 42 tackles, nine sacks and forced two turnovers in 2012 despite making a base salary of only $615,000. Need I say more?

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Fred Davis, Tight End

Fred Davis
Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

While Davis may not warrant a higher yearly income than the $5.4 million he made under the franchise tag in 2012 (and coming off an injury won’t help his cause, either), the guy has a bright future as a pass-catching TE and is probably due for some long-term security.

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Martellus Bennett, Tight End

Martellus Bennett
Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

Bennett saw more passes come his way with the Giants a year ago than any of the four previous seasons he spent in Dallas. He made good on more than enough of those targets to warrant a boost in money and years after playing under a one-year, $2.5 million deal in 2012.

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James Casey, Fullback

James Casey
Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

Casey isn’t going to hit it big during this free agency period, but he can be used in a variety of ways offensively and the former fifth-round pick has earned the right to expect a slight increase in pay moving forward.